Dales farmers given update on Countryside Stewardship scheme

Farmers deep in conversation at the advice meeting in Hawes.

More than 80 farmers attended an evening meeting in Hawes to find out the latest information on the Countryside Stewardship (CS) scheme.

Many of the farmers, mainly drawn from Swaledale and Wensleydale, will soon see their current agri-environment subsidies end.

This could result in a significant drop in income, unless new agreements are entered into.

Countryside Stewardship, now in its third year, provides financial incentives for farmers to look after the environment.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s Farm Conservation Adviser, Jane Le Cocq, organised the meeting and gave the main address.

She concentrated on the “Mid Tier” part of the CS scheme, advising that it was “extremely undersubscribed” within the National Park.

She explained that there was a lot of pre-application work to be done, such as photographs and soil samples.

The main option within the scheme for most of the people at the meeting, who farm in Severely Disadvantaged Areas, was a payment for managing land as “low input grassland”, worth £16 per hectare.

There was a collective intake of breath when the meeting was told how little nitrogen could be applied to the land to meet the eligibility criteria.

However, there are supplements that can be laid on top of the low input grassland payment.  For example, there’s a haymaking supplement worth £85 per hectare.

Farmers were also given advice on Catchment Sensitive Farming and the capital grants that sit within CS, including the Water Capital Grant and the Hedgerows and Boundaries Capital Grants.

Applications for the grants opened on the 10th of March. Example Water Capital Grant options include roofing over existing middens, livestock yards and silage pits; concreting yards; and watercourse fencing.

Up to £10,000 of grants are available per farm business per year.  Up to £5,000 is available for walling and hedgerows.

Len Cloughton, of JS Cloughton, Browna Paddocks, Askrigg, was one of the farmers at the meeting.

His Higher Level Stewardship agreement comes to an end in 2019.

“You come to these events because if you don’t, you don’t know.  Once this scheme finishes, what are my chances of getting another?”

His main reason for attending was to hear about the capital grants.  He said he was pleased with the quality of advice received from the YDNPA.

“It’s a pretty good service.  It can connect us with the schemes.  You go home knowing more than when you came.”

The meeting was held at The Wensleydale Pantry, Hawes, on March 16

A supper of sandwiches and chips was served.

Farmers can get further help and advice by contacting Jane Le Cocq on 01756 751608 or jane.lecocq@yorkshiredales.org.uk